Tag Archives: Hillsborough County

8 Battleground Counties to Decide the Election

Addendum:  This is a re-post from September 20 that I think has held up pretty well.  The biggest difference I’d say is Florida is almost certainly out of reach for Obama so look at Scott County, Iowa as a good one tonight.  You can also scroll through the numerous posts on various Battleground Counties across the county.

[Begin Original Post] That headline is a bit of a stretch but reader Roland Tilden sends a link to a story by Smart Media Group’s Chris Palko who breaks down 10 counties he believes Romney must win to carry the election.   And since we love Battleground Counties almost as much as we love Battleground States, this was right up our alley. What is consistent about the counties selected is each is a big population center so that understandably impacts election outcomes and each was a Bush 2004 and an Obama 2008 county. Not coincidentally Mitt Romney’s original bus tour in June hit a great many of these counties and will almost certainly do so again this time.

The only thing I don’t like about the list is 2 counties are in North Carolina which is not a Battleground in my opinion. In Palko’s defense, this story was originally published in April so his choices are really excellent so far out. As for North Carolina, it’s a state Romney will win by 5-10%. And until President Obama actually campaigns in the state (he hasn’t in all of 2012 outside of his Convention), it’s very likely a GOP pickup with minimal effort from this point forward and not worthy of much attention beyond that acknowledgement.

We have profiled a number of these counties whose links I provide below.  Where there is a battlegroundwatch.com post specifically on one of the cities he mentions, I provided the link as well in addition to my “Battle for [State]” series for each state. With that said, here are the eight Battleground Counties (in reverse order of impact according to Palko) that will go a long way to deciding the election: Hillsborough County, N.H. , Prince William County, Va., Chester County, Pa., Jefferson County, Colo., Arapahoe County, Colo., Hamilton County, Ohio, Pinellas County, Fla., Hillsborough County, Fla.

#8: Hillsborough County  New Hampshire
2004: Bush 51 – 48 2008: Obama 51 – 48
Population: 400,721 Largest city: Manchester

Palko: Most of New Hampshire’s population is close to the Massachusetts state line, which Hillsborough County straddles. It contains a vital grouping of towns and cities including Manchester and Nashua, the two largest cities in the state. Both are swing communities, in the electoral sense.

Battlegroundwatch: This is the location of Mitt Romney’s summer home, the place where he launched his Presidential bid and where he kicked off his June bus tour. They have spent money on the air, these voters are Mitt Romney kind of Republicans and the state has had a Republican resurregence.  Ripe for the plucking but it will be a battle to the end.

#7: Prince William County Virginia
2004: Bush 53 – 47 2008: Obama 58-42
Population: 402,002 Largest community: Dale City

Palko: Prince William County is an exurban county about 25 miles southwest of Washington D.C. It’s on the edge between the traditional, conservative Virginia, and the more progressive suburbs outside the capital. Prince William has become very diverse in recent years, particularly in the I-95 corridor. A hard swing towards Obama was key for him winning Virginia.

Battlegroundwatch: I would have ranked this much higher and definitely in the top 3. This is Obama’s bread-basket: upwardly mobile suburban moderates who trended strongly for Obama in 2008 but whose support has softened in the difficult economic environment. This is where Romney will need to make his mark if he is going to stem the tide of Northern Virginia dominance by Democrats.

  #6 Chester County Pennsylvania
2004: Bush 52 – 47.5 2008: Obama 54 – 45
Population: 498,886 Largest city: West Chester

Palko: Of the four suburban Philly counties, Chester was the only one that Bush won in 2004. The tail end of the prestigious Main Line is in the county, but so is the disadvantaged city of Coatesville. In between, there are plenty of middle-class suburbs, and even still some farmland. This is one of the few counties in Pennsylvania showing substantial population growth, so its importance is increasing.

Battlegroundwatch: It was no accident that the “youthful” Paul Ryan (early-40s is still youthful, right?) and the Romney sons have hit this area hard .  Similar to the suburban growth outside of DC in Virginia, this area outside Pennsylvania is full of persuadable Romney voters.  To win the state, Republicans must begin performing well here and in neighboring counties and they’ll never crack this nut.

#5 Jefferson County Colorado 
2004: Bush 52 – 47 2008: Obama 54 – 45
Population: 534,543 Largest city: Lakewood

Palko: Colorado is a heavily polarized state divided between very liberal Dems in Denver and Boulder, and very conservative Reps in Colorado Springs and the rural areas. The balance of power is held by the handful of counties in suburban Denver. Jefferson County to the west of the city is truly a purple county closely mirroring Colorado’s overall results in the last two presidential contests.

Battlegroundwatch: Filled with one of my favorite stories this cycle about battleground Precinct 7202330176 in Lakewood, a neighborhood who has called all but one statewide race correct since 2000. The swingiest of swing voters, Jefferson has been a regular stop for both sides all election season. Crowd sizes have been huge for Romney and flipping suburban white voters will be the key like they were in 2008 when they flipped for Obama.

#4  Arapahoe County Colorado
2004: Bush 51 – 48 2008: Obama 56 – 43
Population: 572,003 Largest city: Aurora

Palko: Arapahoe County is to the southeast of Denver and, like Jefferson, it’s a purple county that determines which party wins CO. It contains most of Aurora, the second biggest city in the Denver area. The county, and Aurora in particular, has seen a major increase in its Hispanic population in the past decade. This development has made the county a bit more Democratic than its neighbors.

Battlegroundwatch: The key here are the unaffiliated voters who much like Jefferson County swung for Obama in 2008.  Economy is the key.  These are upper middle income workers who often commute to Denver but fall into the pure suburban stereo-type.  Issues like taxes and jobs resonate strongly with this crowd who has unfortunately seen its fair share of recent tragedies.

#3 Hamilton County Ohio
2004: Bush 52.5 – 47 2008: Obama 53 – 46
Population: 802,374 Largest city: Cincinnati

Palko: Cincinnati is one of the most Republican metro areas outside of the South, but the central city county of Hamilton is a swing county. Hamilton County is worth watching, in part, because African-American turnout will be crucial. Sustaining high African-American turnout can make or break Obama’s reelection hopes. [Obama was] the first Democrat since Lyndon Johnson to carry the county.

Battlegroundwatch: A great boon for Obama in 2008 in a state where he underperformed national margins, his win in Hamilton was a shocker.  This is Rob Portman country so look for the debate prep partner and VP short-lister to be featured prominently in efforts to flip this back. This once reliable GOP region must flip if Romney is to have any chance in Ohio.

#2 Pinellas County Florida
2004: Bush 49.6 – 49.5 2008: Obama 54 – 45
Population: 916,542 Largest city: St. Petersburg

Palko: The top counties are both part of Florida’s I-4 Corridor, which runs through the Daytona Beach, Orlando and Tampa areas. The I-4 is the most important region in this presidential election. In Pinellas County, St. Petersburg has some neighborhoods that are solidly Democratic, but most of the territory is split 50/50. Every precinct could make the difference between winning and losing.

Battlegroundwatch: I would have inserted Henrico Couty, VA here (bigger Battleground, Florida trending GOP). But Pinellas is an interesting county w/a lot of conflicting politics.  It was a strong Romney county in the primaries where he doubled his nearest competitor. Unsurprisingly Ann Romney has been featured prominently in this county next door to the Republican Convention.

#1 Hillsborough County Florida
2004: Bush 53 – 46 2008: Obama 53 – 46
Population: 1,229,226 Largest city: Tampa

Palko: The most crucial county this fall is on the other side of Tampa Bay from Pinellas, the runner-up. Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa and its immediate suburbs, is the only county listed with more than one million residents. Still, it’s a fairly accurate small-scale version of America. It has a solidly Democratic central city that includes large African-American and Hispanic populations, and some outlying areas that are heavily Republican. The immediate suburbs are closely split. Whoever wins Hillsborough County in November is most likely the next occupant of the White House.

Battlegroundwatch: If Mitt Romney doesn’t win Florida, he probably doesn’t win the election.  And if he doesn’t win Hillsborough County, he probably doesn’t win Florida. Home of the Republican Convention and probably more campaign attention than any in the state.  This target rich county at the base of the I-4 corridor, this county is as closely contested as any in the country.  Of the 1.95 million votes cast in presidential elections since 1992, Republican nominees won only about 14,000 more than Democratic nominees. The outcome in the Tampa Bay market has run within 2 percentage points of the statewide result in every presidential election since 1992.

The Battle for Florida

Earlier I sung the praises of Michael Steele for getting the Convention in Tampa despite the bed-wetter cries about the weather at the start. Nate Silver breaks down the entire state of Florida with its partisan divide across the state concluding that the choice of Tampa for this year’s convention was a brilliant move for the GOP. As he writes: “In every election since 1960 the presidential candidate who carried Florida has also carried Tampa’s Hillsborough County.” Considering the likelihood that if Romney cannot carry Florida, he likely cannot win the election, perhaps Governor Romney should send a thank you note to the embattled but successful former Chairman if come November we are calling him President Romney:

The Republican Party has good reason to hold its national convention in Tampa, Fla. The Tampa area is the most competitive section of the most competitive region in one of the most competitive states in the nation — the perfect place to seek a glimmer of extra advantage in a closely-fought presidential contest. In many ways, the Tampa area was the weakest link in the regional coalition that Barack Obama built to win Florida in 2008. The Tampa-St. Petersburg media market is home to a quarter of Florida’s registered Republicans, and Mr. Obama carried Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties — home to Tampa and St. Petersburg — by a smaller margin than Florida’s other major population centers. If Mitt Romney wants to win the state, it represents the most attractive target.

And winning Florida is a must for Mr. Romney. Based on the simulations that the FiveThirtyEight forecast model ran on Tuesday, Mr. Romney has only a 0.3 percent chance of winning the election if he loses the state. It is hard to conceive of Mr. Romney winning the election but losing Florida because Florida is an ever-so-slightly Republican-leaning state. If he loses it, he’s probably having trouble elsewhere on the map as well. It’s quite unlikely that Mr. Romney loses Florida but wins a state like Michigan or Pennsylvania, for instance.

Democrat South Florida

Just over a third of Florida’s registered Democrats live in the Miami and West Palm Beach media markets, especially in Miami-Dade County, Broward County and Palm Beach County.

  • Broward County, in particular, is critical to Democratic margins in Florida. Without Broward County Mr. Obama would have lost Florida in 2008; his statewide margin of victory (204,577 votes) was less than his margin in Broward (252,948 votes).
  • Miami-Dade County is reliably Democratic. Its large Cuban-American population leans Republican and keeps the county from tilting all the way to the left. Miami-Dade County is home to 58 percent of Florida’s Hispanic Republicans and 34 percent of Hispanic Democrats.

The I-4 Corridor: from Tampa to Orlando

  • Orlando’s Orange County was just marginally Democratic in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Then — partly because of an influx of non-Cuban Hispanics — Mr. Obama carried Orange County fairly easily in 2008, and the county itself is probably out of reach for Republicans now. “It’s really tipping the state,” Mr. deHaven-Smith said. A potential dream scenario for Democrats — and a nightmare for Republicans — is if the demographic shifts in this region are enough to shift Florida from being slightly Republican-leaning to strictly neutral, or slightly Democratic-leaning instead.

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The (Legal) Battle for Florida

Ever since the 2000 election, Florida has been a mainstay of ever national election due to its political diversity, high electoral count and notoriously tight outcomes.  Although the state no longer holds the preeminent place as THE battleground state (a title jointly shared by Virginia and Ohio), the state is still fraught with political cross-currents that will make the state a battleground to the very end this election season.  The recent visits by Paul Ryan and President Obama are just the warm-up acts.  The Republican Convention begins shortly which will put an even greater spotlight on a state that is settling its differences in court — hopefully before election day:

Stick a pin almost anywhere on a map of Florida and you’ll find a legal battle over who will be eligible to vote in the coming presidential election — and when, and how, and where. In a state crucial to Mitt Romney’s battle to replace President Obama, a sweeping law passed in 2011 by the Republican legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott (R) has created an awesome wake of litigation. The law imposes more than 75 changes, including new restrictions on who can register voters and limits on the time allowed for early voting. Sponsors of the measure said it creates a more reliable system that combats voter fraud, while opponents, a group that included every Democratic lawmaker, called it a partisan ploy to suppress voters who traditionally favor Democrats.

Lawyers take to the forefront

But unlike the frenzied trip to the U.S. Supreme Court that followed the close of voting in the 2000 presidential race, the Sunshine State’s legal battles are being waged in advance of the November vote. “Florida is desperately trying not to be the next Florida,” said Richard L. Hasen, an expert on election law whose new book, “The Voting Wars,” begins with a chapter titled “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Florida.”

Florida ballot litigation is not unique this year

There could be many contenders for the title this fall. In battleground states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and beyond, changes in voting laws have resulted in high-stakes legal battles over whose ballots will be counted.

Litany of litigious locals

One of the many legal battles in Florida was answered last last week, when a panel of federal judges ruled that the new limits on early voting could not be implemented in five counties that receive special scrutiny under the Voting Rights Act. Florida, said the unanimous ruling, “has failed to satisfy its burden of proving that those changes will not have a retrogressive effect on minority voters.” That will hardly be the last judicial decision affecting Florida’s nearly 11.5 million voters before polls close on Nov. 6.

  • In Miami, minority groups have sued the state over whether its plan to purge the voter lists of noncitizens might result in legitimate voters losing their rights.
  • In Tampa, a similar lawsuit asks whether the state’s plan to purge the lists violated a different section of the federal law.
  • In Tallahassee, judges in two courts considered a host of suits and countersuits, including one change that caused the League of Women Voters to suspend voter-registration efforts for fear of criminal penalties.
  • In Duval County, where African Americans make up a larger portion of voters than in any of Florida’s other large counties, Elder Lee E. Harris has joined a lawsuit that would require the state to continue to allow early voting on the Sunday before the election.

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Battleground Counties, “Independent” Voters and Super Lazy Reporters

The Washington Post takes a deep dive (2600 words) into four Battleground Counties that will help decide this year’s election.  Incredibly, they greatly diminish this extensive work by first, including the state of Missouri in the analysis — a state Obama isn’t even contesting. Second, before delving into each state/county they offer polls including an admitted month-old poll in Ohio showing Obama leading by 11 percentage points. Besides using incredibly stale data, they even got the poll #s wrong.  In the cited Quinnipiac poll from June, Obama was only leading by 9 percentage points, not 11.  And there were a ton of issues with that poll like Obama having a 3 point advantage among male voters? There is no chance that is accurate in 2012. With plenty of other polls available, how does an ostensibly reputable newspaper use data from a month ago when election preferences change almost daily.  Lastly, this talk of independent voters is nonsense.  Most of the interviews were with complete partisans.  Of course, the Republican partisan’s concerns were minimized by the reporter in classic liberal journalistic fashion, but regardless this article is allegedly about Independent/persuadable voters. Unbelievable.

With that as our lead in, we will focus on the worthwhile aspects on this opus like the three actual Battleground counties where the outcome is actually relevant: Wood County, Ohio; Henrico County, Virginia; Hillsborough County, Florida

In these next 100 days, President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney and their political allies will spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to sway uncommitted voters in a few key states. These are the people they’re after. Interviews with dozens of voters in Florida, Missouri, Ohio and Virginia illustrate just how complicated each voter’s decision can be and, sometimes, how very far removed it is from the election strategies being mapped out in campaign conference rooms in Chicago or Boston or Washington. The conversations with voters also show how little the daily media circus of gaffes and campaign ads and surrogate attacks actually moves its intended targets. After months of heavy advertising by Romney, many voters knew only that he is Mormon, rich and not Obama. This weekend, the Obama campaign kicks off the last 100 days of campaigning with 4,600 small events around the country, including Olympics-watching parties, house parties and “Barbecues for Barack.” The Romney campaign is taking a different approach. The candidate is in Israel this weekend as part of an overseas tour designed to enhance his image as an international statesman.

As it turns out, the fight is for an extraordinarily small slice of the U.S. electorate. In one recent poll, more than two-thirds of voters said they already had all the information they needed to make their choice. So a few undecided people, in just a few places, could swing an entire country. Washington Post reporters visited four counties that could be decisive. All four voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 and then for Obama in 2008, and each is in a state that will be crucial to the outcome in November.

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Battleground Counties: Hillsborough County, Florida

One of my favorite topics this election season are the Battleground Counties that will truly decide this election.  We’ve covered a few of these so far and here is an extensive look at one of the more important players due to the electoral votes at stake: Hillsborough County, Florida which includes Tampa, home of the Republicans National Convention this year.  Travelers advisory warning: this write-up is full of a lot of great data.  But the author veers off into wholly inaccurate information and some partisan opinion writing when it comes to Obama’s organizational operation in the state.  It’s unfortunate because these inaccuracies and biased rhetoric mar what is otherwise a great look at an all-important Battleground County:

In 2008, Hillsborough became the only Florida county that had backed Republican George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 to flip to Barack Obama. A surge of minority voters, young people, and independents helped Obama wring 68,000 more votes out of Hillsborough than John Kerry had, propelling him to a 7-point victory over Republican nominee John McCain in the county. How closely divided is Hillsborough? Of the 1.95 million votes cast in presidential elections since 1992, Republican nominees won only about 14,000 more than Democratic nominees. The outcome in the Tampa Bay market has run within 2 percentage points of the statewide result in every presidential election since 1992. The campaign here will pit Obama’s organizational power and his capacity to take advantage of the region’s shifting demographics against Romney’s message of fiscal prudence, backed by the state’s all-powerful GOP establishment, and played against the backdrop of a still-sputtering local economy.

How South Florida’s eastern and western counties achieved their ideological split

Liberal Northeasterners headed south on I-95 to Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, turning South Florida into a Democratic stronghold, while folks from Michigan and Ohio took I-75 to Florida’s west coast. The influx bestowed on Hillsborough County a Midwestern sensibility that’s more practical than ideological.

Fiscal conservatism in the county

In one obvious sign of the county’s penny-pinching mind-set, tea party activists help lead a successful battle in 2010 against a 1-cent increase in the sales tax to pay for light rail and other transportation projects in the county. The Democratic nominee for governor that year, Alex Sink, hailed from Hillsborough County but won here by only 10,000 votes. That slim margin of victory helped Republican Rick Scott, a former corporate executive who promised to create 700,000 jobs in seven years, narrowly win statewide.

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Scenes From the Bus Tour: New Hampshire

Sarah Wheaton in the New York Times takes a look at the bus tour kick-off in New Hampshire:

Mitt Romney kicked off a five-day bus tour, an ambitious barnstormer through small-town America that was billed as an effort to introduce Mr. Romney to a new set of voters. And the first two events, including an ice cream social on the village green here, kept him solidly in his comfort zone. The scenery and theatrics of the first day of the bus trip set the tone the campaign hopes to convey over the coming days. After a live bluegrass show, with bales of hay in the background, Senator Kelly Ayotte introduced Mr. Romney as his campaign bus pulled up alongside the crowd on the Scamman Farm in Stratham. The music then switched from a Coplandesque anthem to Mr. Romney’s rock theme, “Born Free,” as he and his wife, Ann, traversed a catwalk to the stage, encircled by the audience. In some ways, the first day’s events seemed more of a warm-up than a representative example of the tour’s stated goals. At the tour’s outset, Mr. Romney’s strategist said it would take the candidate to places that are “not necessarily traditional campaign stops.” That could, of course, rule out the entire state of New Hampshire, given its prominent role in the primary process.

Reaching out for undecideds:

The campaign also said the crowds would not necessarily be packed with supporters. But people who turned out invariably had Romney stickers and said they had received tickets from the campaign or from other Republican connections. And some of them drove up from Massachusetts. That said, the two New Hampshire stops are in two of the three counties Mr. Obama won by the smallest margins in 2008: Rockingham County (Stratham), which Mr. Obama took by one percentage point, and Hillsborough County (Milford), which he won by three. Doug Rutt was in the crowd because Nancy Hubert Real Estate, where he is an agent, is across the street from the Milford Oval. Even after Mr. Romney’s speech, he remained undecided. “I’ve been pretty disappointed in all the candidates,” said Mr. Rutt, 64, who lives in nearby Brookline. “Nobody seems to have a good idea.” A registered independent, Mr. Rutt voted for Republicans until 2008, when he chose Mr. Obama. He called the economy’s improvement “anemic.” However, he does not want to see Mr. Romney return to George W. Bush’s economic policies by loosening banking regulations.

Romney Bus Tours Battleground Counties

Even though we pointed out that the bus tour travels through all states won by Obama (complete schedule here), ABC drilled down a little further and identified that many of the stops were in all-important Battleground Counties — one of our favorite topics:

In New Hampshire:

Romney visits the towns of Stratham and Milford. Stratham is located in Rockingham County, in the southeastern most portion of the state. Barack Obama narrowly carried Rockingham in 2008, defeating Sen.  John McCain by about 1 percentage point. Milford is located in Hillsborough County, another blue county in 2008.  Obama carried this one by a margin of about 3 percentage points.

In Pennsylvania:

Weatherly and Quakertown are located in Carbon County and Bucks County, respectively, two counties that went blue the last time around. Obama won Carbon County by roughly 2 percentage points and carried Bucks County by about 9.

In Ohio there are no pure Battleground Counties on the tour. Brunswick in is red Medina County (McCain: 53, Obama: 45) but the town is right on the border of Cuyahoga County that Obama carried 69-30 thanks to strong city support in Cleveland.  Newark is in red Licking County (McCain 57-41), but its neighboring county is Franklin County that Obama carried 60-39. Troy is in lightly populated Miami County that McCain carried decisively (63-35 ) but its adjoining county is the far more populous Montgomery County that Obama won 53-46.

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